Training the Maid

Posted in Hiring A Maid at 11:38 am

If you’re new – I wrote the How to Hire A Maid like a book. Click Table of Contents for future articles and links to old blogs in a more comprehensible order – or just click here & go to the bottom to read it straight through by scrolling up to each article.

The new maid has finally arrived. Your first task is to convince her that you don’t want her to clean the house.  (If at all financially feasible, keep your old maid coming on a different day for about a month.)

Explain that you just want her to deep clean the kitchen for this visit. The way to do this should not be left to your new maid’s imagination.  Emphasize that you don’t even need the kitchen completed in one visit (this is obviously a function of the length of her visit and the size of the kitchen.)

Then give her a copy of the following checklist (modified for your home):

Kitchen Checklist

Be sure to add items specific to your kitchen:

Coffee pots should have a pot of vinegar water & then a pot of fresh water run through them.

Ask for detailed cleaning of things like juicers and bread machines that one’s family feels aren’t really dirty if they can’t see the places where strange organisms are growing.

The dog bowl if everyone feels a quick rinse is sufficient for Fido. if you & your family are meticulous about cleaning the pet bowls, explicitly ask the maid not to touch the pet’s things. You probably do a better job rinsing chemicals off than your maid might.

How you want her to clean the oven exhaust fan and filter.

Specify where you want problem things to go. (I used the dining room table for this.) Nothing wastes more time than looking for something when the maid guessed where to put it away.  Emptying the dishwasher can be fraught with peril. When you finally do find the item, the logic she used may be obvious. Or not.  Worse, it’s really disappointing when she tosses the rare blue cheese imported at enormous cost from Timbuktu.  Asking your maid to make judgment calls can be really unfair. Make it easy for her.

Write down the exact cleaning supplies you want her to use on each item. I have really old wood cabinets (worn out old, not antiques) and messy children. Cleaning the gunk (a technical term for those things you don’t want to know about) takes a cleaner like Fantastic (TM) and a wood polish cleaner makes me think that it looks like it’s been cleaned. This regimen would destroy good wood cabinets.

Once your maid has completed the room go over the checklist together. If she couldn’t figure out how to get the ceiling light off, now’s the time to show her.

You’ll then give her the list to the next room (don’t worry, I’ll put up the lists) & do this for every room in your house. Twice. Assuming that neither of you has had a nervous breakdown, you’ll move to phase 2.


In Defense of Clutter

Posted in Hiring A Maid, Uncategorized at 3:20 pm

I often read about ways to organize my life and eliminate clutter. It sounds very seductive – relieve stress, find your keys instantly, purify your mind. I wonder though about the other values you embrace on your way to a clutter-free life.

I have games from my grandmother’s generation. Handed down from relatives near & distant that know I worship hoarding. Board games in boxes so strong you could prop up the side of the home with them should it start to collapse. (One wonders if Haggard had taken out an old game & played it with his family when he was first tempted to illicit activity if he would be happier now.)

Gifts from my clutter-happy side of the family tend to be few but worthy of keeping forever. Small collector’s items, large lathes for creating hand-made wooden pens, origami kits that supply the Christmas decorations for the following year’s tree. Of course, no one said my family was practical – I have some trouble finding homes for all these things.
Other friends are definitely in the clutter-free pew. Equally generous, they tend to arrive with a multitude of cool gifts never meant to be kept. Do they know the stress of determining if the pieces can be mended or worked into some other collection so their memory is treasured?

Does buying an object knowing that it will be trashed in a relatively short time lead to a lack of respect for all things material? I’m not sure, but I think it a very slippery slope. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to find a home for this tiny screw. The ones I had like this from 25 years ago are starting to corrode.


It’s Important Not to Let Your Kids Torture the Maid

Posted in Dee Stories, Family Legends, Hiring A Maid at 9:49 am

Dee’s Story

Dee is a respectable matron with a responsible position in municipal government, but she wasn’t always. In fact, Dee seems to have been a bit of a terror.

In the ancient times of party lines and B&W TV, Dee attended Kindergarten. Since she came from a well-to-do and progressive family her father would leave his stores to bring Dee home from school while her mother worked. There, their treasure of a maid, Ida, would keep an eye on Dee.

This was not always easy to do since Dee was very petite and liked to hide under furniture. In fact, her favorite spot was under the console that held the TV and the phone, armed with her alarm clock. Hardly a weapon of mental destruction unless Ida were sleeping on the job. (She wasn’t – she loved Dee and wanted to make sure she was safe.)

Secure under the console, Dee would ring the alarm clock. Ida, would immediately pick up the phone with a professional “Smith residence” (of course I changed the name – I like Dee too) which is what one did when one’s phone rang. The operator would ask, as operators did in those days, “What number please?” Forthwith would ensue a fight Lucille Ball would be proud of. Each heatedly accused the other of ringing first.

(Did I mention terror?) – Dee did this many times but Ida never caught on. I suspect both Ida and the operator to this day think the other was tippling on the job.

If you’re new – I wrote the How to Hire A Maid like a book. Click Table of Contents for future articles and links to old blogs in a more comprehensible order – or just click here & go to the bottom to read it straight through by scrolling up to each article.


Preparing For The Maid’s Arrival

Posted in Hiring A Maid at 12:19 pm

My mother always cleaned before the maid came. I swore I’d never do that.

Sociologists 100 years from now will probably blame the Internet phenomenon of publishing one’s most private details on children watching the insanity of their mother cleaning the house before the maid arrived. It didn’t help that mothers wanting their children to take some responsibility for their rooms while paying someone else to clean them said, “We have to clean up before she arrives so she doesn’t know what a pigsty we live in.”

By now you may have noticed your mother was not a raving lunatic when she gave directions or advice and usually had some rational thought behind what she did. (Even if you still disagree, getting to the age where you are ready to pay for your own maid gives one a remarkable appreciation for the rationality of an older generation’s views. One hopes.)

Maids are not the highest status workers in society. To get satisfaction from their job most will try very hard to leave a room much neater than they found it. They did not sign on, however, to memorize the location of all your possessions and return each thing to it’s proper spot.

This leads to books being replaced on any bookshelf in the room or house.  Sometimes the books will be put in backwards so that at your leisure you can go through the bookshelf and put them were they really belong. Clean clothes your daughter didn’t put away from the pile on the sofa might be carefully folded and put in your husband’s sock drawer because that was where there was room. All pictures might be a trifle askew just to let you know they’ve been dusted.

Your mother’s solution was to clean before the maid came.  You, in the spirit of instilling personal responsibility, can try screaming at your family that the maid is coming and they better clean their rooms, or you can try a more laid-back approach.

Designate a ‘junk space’ in each room. Ask the maid to put stray items in the junk space. I use the bed for bedrooms, a counter for the kitchen and a drawer for more public areas. After the maid comes, put away everything in the public junk drawers immediately.  Put your items and your husband’s items away immediately.

Please note I am a child of the 60’s & 70’s and a committed women’s libber. Putting away your husband’s items rather than nagging him will greatly increase the happiness quotient of the universe – particularly your universe. If you are stressing out over picking up after your husband try asking him to pick up something (socks, tools, whatever) before the maid comes once. If he has trouble remembering, try saying you don’t want a birthday present you just want him to pick up the something routinely.  If it still doesn’t work go back to the point about you doing it increases sattwa  in the universe.

Get your kids to put away things on their bed before they do anything fun they want to do. If you don’t, they will shift it to a side table or chair & a small mountain will grow that you will have to spend a weekend with them demolishing. (been there, done that)

If you’re new – I wrote the How to Hire A Maid like a book. Click Table of Contents for future articles and links to old blogs in a more comprehensible order – or just click here & go to the bottom to read it straight through by scrolling up to each article.



Cleaning Supplies for the New Maid

Posted in Hiring A Maid at 2:03 pm

If you’re new – I wrote the How to Hire A Maid like a book. Click Table of Contents for future articles and links to old blogs in a more comprehensible order – or just click here & go to the bottom to read it straight through by scrolling up to each article.


Cleaning items should be on hand and organized before the maid arrives. The maid will need:

  • rags or cleaning cloths – paper towels will also work but she will probably use more than you ever thought possible
  • broom
  • dust pan
  • mop
  • 2 buckets (one for water and one for carrying cleaning supplies)
  • correctly sized gloves (1 plus spare for each person)
  • vacuum cleaner
  • glass cleaner
  • furniture spray
  • tub & sink cleaner
  • tile cleaner
  • floor cleaner

The Maid and Her Mop

Posted in Hiring A Maid at 2:02 pm

The mop of choice for many maids is a string mop. It allows them to wet all surfaces and pick up any pieces they may have missed when sweeping. It doesn’t really clean your floors. If she doesn’t express a preference, try getting her to use a sponge mop. If she says she prefers a string mop, give up and let her use it.

In one or two selected rooms, like the dining room or kitchen you may also request that she dry the floor afterwards with a rag. This should take care of the mystery stains that may or may not be dried milk. Again, you don’t want to know what it is, you just want it gone – without rewashing the floor after the maid leaves. This will not work throughout the house.

What you can do (if using a string mop really bothers you) is to check the floor after she’s finished mopping a room by wiping a slightly damp white rag over it. (This may work best on the third or fourth visit.) If it is visibly dirty, repeat as she is finishing the next room in front of her. Encourage her to mop, change the water and mop again.

This must be done with respect. Remember that the maid is not trying to make your floors turn black over time – she just wants to do a reasonably good job quickly. She has not thought about the effectiveness of one mop over another (other than on speed of use). If you are not very careful, she will think you are trying to tell her she is doing a bad job instead of telling her that her tool is not the best. If she feels demeaned (should I have said a more modern dissed?), she will be stewing over the conversation while cleaning the 18th centuary porcelain or 17th centuary cut glass. When it breaks, try to keep in mind that it had too many crevises to be dusted well anyway.

Cleaning Fluids

Posted in Hiring A Maid at 1:55 pm

Most maids are set in the way they use their equipment and even the cleaning supply brands they use. Unless you own a cleaning solution manufacturing plant, go with their choice. It’s not important.
I like vinegar in water for floors, glass and cabinet cleaning (2 T/gal). I have fond delusions that it may cut down on the high incidence of asthma in professional house cleaners. No matter what your choice, if your cleaning supplies are going to be diluted in water you must tie a tablespoon or measuring cup to the container and write in dark marker the amount to be added. Each time you replace the cleaner, transfer the measuring tool and write the amount. If you don’t, maids (and others) have a universal mind-set that more will clean faster and with less work. It won’t, but it will stain or eat away at your fabrics and woods.

Proper Use

If you are supplying Comet® or other chlorine-based powder and Windex® or other ammonia-based spray:

Make very sure that your maid knows that they cannot be mixed.

Spraying a mirror liberally with Windex® above a sink filled with Comet® can produce chlorine gas that can gas your maid.
Accidental death inquiries are very time consuming and completely defeat the idea of having a maid.
All cleaning supplies are chemicals that must be handled correctly to prevent injury to the maid and damage to your possessions. Take the time to read the precautions and repeatedly check that your maid is using things correctly. For instance – tile cleaner is essentially dilute bleach. If your maid is waving the sprayer around and spritzing your cloth shower curtains, you’re going to have bleached spots. Not pretty. Worse, she’s probably breathing in much too much.
Maids should also be encouraged to well-ventilate the room they’re spraying chemicals in. House and ceiling fans should always be on. Windows should be open in the bathrooms, the kitchen and the room that is being deep cleaned.


Salary for the New Maid

Posted in Hiring A Maid at 9:14 am

If you’re new – I wrote the How to Hire A Maid like a book. Click Table of Contents for future articles and links to old blogs in a more comprehensible order – or just click here & go to the bottom to read it straight through by scrolling up to each article.

When you’re asking your friends for recommendations for maids ask what they pay.  If they tell you a total amount try & find out how many hours they think they’re buying.

You’ve already estimated the minimum time you’re really going to need your maid for. Tell her you need her for that amount of time and how often you will need her. Ask how much per hour she charges. She will probably give you a price for the whole house.

Sanity check the amount. How big is your house compared to your friends’ homes?  How much is cheap housing within 30-40 minutes of your house? If the salary is very low, she’s counting on cutting time.  Don’t worry if the amount she cites is below your estimate. You’ll want to give her a raise after 3 months if she works out.

Don’t forget to ask when she takes a vacation, if she works holidays & how she handles missed days. Does she make them up during another part of the week, come longer the next time or just skip them? Be prepared to specify if you plan to pay her the normal salary while she is on vacation.

Arrange for her to come the time you calculated that she will need her to clean your whole house even though that’s not what she will be doing for a while.

Don’t worry if your salary conversation comes down to a simple she says she’ll clean your house for x and you say OK. (Nobody really likes salary conversations.) With luck she will turn out so well you will happily be giving her a raise shortly and volunteering to pay her salary while on vacation because she makes your life so much better.

Coming Monday (sorry this post & the last Maid post were so dry )

Maids should not be permitted to gas themselves with Comet / Windex concoctions.


The Interview For A New Maid

Posted in Hiring A Maid at 6:34 pm

If you’re new – I wrote the How to Hire A Maid like a book. Click Table of Contents for future articles and links to old blogs in a more comprehensible order – or just click here & go to the bottom to read it straight through by scrolling up to each article.


At some point the potential maid comes to see your house, gives you a price and sets up a schedule.

You need to make the following point extremely clear:

You do not want her to clean your whole house in one visit. You are just hiring her to clean two or three rooms at a time. You have another maid that cleans the whole house. 

You are going to have a checklist for each of your rooms as you walk through your house. Show her the list, talk and act through each item (quickly). Ask when she is available and when she needs to leave.   Try to find out how booked she is. Maids are very reluctant to reveal how many people they are really working for. I don’t know if they think that their employers are out to report them to the IRS for the 10% cut of the unreported income or they think they can fool their employers over the length of time they’re really at the house. The answer she gives you can only be regarded as a best-case answer.


Nannies are Not Maids

Posted in Hiring A Maid at 10:03 am

If you’re new – I wrote the How to Hire A Maid  like a book. Click Table of Contents for future articles and links to old blogs in a more comprehensible order – or just click here & go to the bottom to read it straight through.

It really helps if you figure out your Maid’s goals. before hiring her.

You thought the caste system in India was rigid?

In the 4 months between my daughter’s attendance at full-time kindergarten and the birth of my son I came up with the idiotic plan of allowing my fabulous Nanny to take the place of the maid. In my defense, Bella normally kept the house sparkling. I came home to everything in its place and a clean kitchen.

Bella understood that I really didn’t want to pay her for a full week when I only needed her for 2 ½ hours a day. Taking the place of the maid while the children were at school seemed perfectly reasonable.

Wrong. The status of the Maid is infinitely below that of the Nanny. After 4 months of a filthy house I discovered that she had been so embarrassed that ‘she hadn’t even told her husband that she was cleaning toilets.’ Even jobs she had cheerfully done on a voluntary basis as a Nanny, took on a demeaning status when she did them as “The Maid.”